A visit with craftsmen in Switzerland cemented philanthropist Amanda Polk’s obsession with fine watches.
Prominent members of the Washington philanthropic community, Amanda Polk and her husband, Curtis, are also watch aficionados. When not serving on the boards of the Suburban Hospital/Johns Hopkins Medicine—which is celebrating its Showcase event on May 8 to raise money for its neuroscience program—The Washington Humane Society, and KEEN (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now) USA, Polk feeds her obsession for timepieces. Currently with 15 watches in her collection—including UlysseNardin, Cartier, VacheronConstantin, Roger Dubuis, Rolex, and Raymond Weil—Polk didn’t start out with a deep love of the art of watch making.
“I had always thought they were beautiful pieces of jewelry,” shares the Potomac resident. “I felt that it pulled together an outfit.” Her husband, an avid watch collector, began sharing his fervor for timepieces with Polk. “My husband has a large collection of beautiful watches, and he taught me what to pay attention to,” says Polk. It was on a trip to the center of the watch world that she took it to the next level.
“In 2005 we went to Switzerland, where I got to see firsthand the effort and craftsmanship that goes into making fine watches [and the] care and precision that is involved in the complications,” she says. “I remember being dazzled by Franck Muller, whose skeletons, bridges, and limited editions are unbelievable. You realize that you are lucky to own something so extraordinary.”
Despite the haute horology that surrounds her, Polk is also a fan of watches that have tenacity. “I love something that is very durable, like the Chanel J12,” Polk says. “I have one in black. Because it is ceramic, I can wear it to the gym and bang it around, and then I can wear it out to a lunch and know that it still looks great.” When it comes to her collection, it has never languished in jewelry boxes, where pieces can become forgotten. “I bring all of my watches out once a month and clean them,” says Polk. “It is nice because it reminds me to wear them. They are also tools meant to be used.”
Holding a graduate certificate in philanthropy with a concentration on fundraising from New York University’s George Heyman Center for Philanthropy and Fundraising, Polk has always been dedicated to raising her daughter, Cheyenne, with the understanding that giving back is important. “I would bring my daughter along when she was young, so that she could see the work being done and so that philanthropy would be an important part of her life,” says Polk. “Volunteering, giving back, and making Washington a better place are important values to instill in our children.”